One of the approaches I look to live by is seek first to understand and then be understood. I was first introduced to this in 1994 when reading Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Time and again I’ve been surprised by how this approach can change my view and more importantly, action. Despite my best intentions, I don’t always get it right.
Stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France saw two nasty crashes in quick succession involving multiple riders. As a result the Commissaires (race referee) firstly neutralised the race and then stopped it completely for a period. I like masses of cycling fans, disgruntled riders and ‘pundits’ on social media thought this set a dangerous precedent. Particularly given that crashes are an unfortunate, yet inevitable part of the sport. After the stage had finished Christian Prudhomme (the general director of the TdF) explained the decision. All the race doctors and ambulances were dealing with victims of the crashes and this therefore resulted in no protection for the remaining riders in the race.
On hearing the explanation my view of the situation changed instantly. A great reminder that it’s important to understand the facts before forming an opinion. The first leadership lesson. So what’s the second?
I’ve been following the TdF since 1982. I can’t recall a situation where the race has been stopped as a result of the crash. What happened yesterday was a good example of the leaders needing to assess the situation, interpret and then apply the rules accordingly. Even when this means breaking new ground. Rider safety is a clear situation to understand and make decisions against. As leaders you are likely to find more variables and complexity in the situations you face. The same principles need to apply though. Blindly following the rules is so often the route of poor decision making and loss of engagement from the people you lead. Leadership judgement is what’s required.
See how many times you and apply these two leadership lessons over the next seven days. As always, I’m interested in how you get on.